Capitals collapse in 4-3 overtime loss to Senators

Senators center Mike Fisher bats the game-winning shot past Semyon Varlamov.
Senators center Mike Fisher bats the game-winning shot past Semyon Varlamov. (Fred Chartrand/Associated Press)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OTTAWA -- Jay Beagle did what most young Canadian hockey players aspire to when he notched his first NHL goal Monday night. But the Washington Capitals' fourth-line center didn't get the chance to celebrate his achievement properly in the solemn visitors' dressing room at Scotiabank Place following a disheartening 4-3 overtime defeat to the Ottawa Senators.

Beagle, an undrafted rookie who was recalled from the minor leagues last week as an injury replacement, intercepted a pass midway through the second period and buried his shot to give Washington a 3-1 lead. But the Capitals suffered what Coach Bruce Boudreau called a "collapse by 20 guys" in the third period and overtime en route to a third straight loss -- each by a single goal.

Mike Fisher scored the winner at 1 minute 14 seconds of the extra session when he batted the puck out of midair, redirecting it past goaltender Semyon Varlamov to send the Senators spilling onto the ice to toast their fourth straight win.

Fisher's goal delivered the decisive blow, but the Capitals' collapse began in the third period, which began with them holding a 3-1 lead and ended with them being outshot, 18-3. Washington took three penalties in the final 13:24 of regulation after going penalty-free until the third period.

"They wanted it more [and then] we take three dumb penalties, they get the momentum, they get the crowd into it and we leave our poor goalie out to dry," Boudreau said. "What happens a lot to us is that we go two periods without a penalty and then all of a sudden it's, well, 'We got to call something on them.' And you get a cheap one. But at least two of them were deserved."

The Senators' comeback began with agitator Chris Neil redirecting Filip Kuba's shot from the point past Varlamov, who made 33 saves, on a play that began when David Steckel's clearing pass off the glass was intercepted by Kuba.

"The momentum changer was on the second goal that I let up there," Steckel said.

Then, as if on cue, the Capitals' late-game penalty woes returned. Alex Ovechkin (assist, three shots) was sent to the penalty box for a borderline roughing call, and the Senators wasted little time scoring the tying goal. Ottawa defenseman Alexandre Picard, less than a minute later, rifled a shot from the point through traffic that eluded Varlamov.

The Capitals had to kill off minor penalties to John Erskine (high-sticking) and Chris Clark (tripping) over the final 11:10 just to get to overtime.

"They came out well," in the third period, said Clark, who scored a goal and had two near-misses. "I don't think we intended to come out lightly. We've shot ourselves in the foot a number of times this year, but we came out in overtime and won games. But this is the one that really hurts because we lost."

In overtime, Varlamov was under siege from the start. Then Fisher made a difficult play to knock the waist-high shot from Chris Phillips into the net.

"This was a collapse by 20 guys," Boudreau said. "I don't know how else to sugarcoat it. We had total control of the game after two periods. They didn't even want to be a part of it. They looked like they wanted to go home."

It was Beagle's goal that had the Senators feeling that way. The 24-year-old native of Calgary intercepted an errant pass from Jonathan Cheechoo deep in the Ottawa zone, then snapped the puck past goalie Brian Elliott to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead.

"It's a dream come true to be in this organization and have the success I'm having," Beagle said. "Things are happening for me."

But it was hard for Beagle to smile after the defeat.

"You score to win, right?" he added. "It's a tough loss. I still can't really believe we let it slip away. I scored, but at the same time I'm disappointed with the loss. So it's kind of a bittersweet moment."

Although the Senators scored first, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Peter Regin at 7:27 of the first period, the Capitals battled back.

Clark evened the score with a controversial goal at 11:19 of the opening session. Defenseman Brian Pothier sent a slap pass to the Capitals' captain, who redirected the puck past Elliott with his left skate as he raced to the net. The goal was reviewed, but because there was no distinct kicking motion, it was allowed to stand.

Then Washington's power play went to work. After two games of futility for the group, Brendan Morrison redirected a pass from Mike Green with 30 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Capitals ahead, 2-1.

Beagle's tally, the only goal in a second period in which the Senators slowly stole back control late, gave the Capitals what should have been a big enough cushion.

"Should" being the operative word.

"I don't think the problem was physical," Steckel said. "I just think mentally we shut it down."

Capitals note: The Capitals were again without seven players who were on the opening-night roster, including big-minute forwards Alexander Semin (sore wrist) and Mike Knuble (broken finger) as well as defensemen Tom Poti (bruised chest) and Shaone Morrisonn (concussion). Morrisonn took the morning skate and pregame warmup and could return Wednesday.

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